Ajika Georgian Grilled Chicken is a flavorful and aromatic dish originating from the country of Georgia. It is made by marinating chicken in a mixture of Ajika, a spicy and savory Georgian red pepper paste, along with other herbs and spices. This chicken is then grilled to perfection, resulting in a smoky, spicy, and slightly tangy flavor profile that’s truly unique to Georgian cuisine.
You can make your own Ajika seasoning, or use a store-bought mix like Trader Joe’s Ajika for an easy, delicious, and complex chicken dish that is great in salads, sandwiches, pitas, and more!
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Georgian Grilled Chicken
Ajika Georgian Grilled Chicken is a testament to the rich culinary traditions of Georgia, a country nestled at the intersection of Europe and Asia. Known for its vibrant, aromatic dishes, Georgian cuisine embraces a wide array of spices, many of which contribute to the delectable flavor of Ajika Georgian Grilled Chicken.
Ajika is a Georgian spice paste that serves as the heart and soul of this dish. Made from red and bell peppers, garlic, herbs, and a unique combination of spices, Ajika has a distinct flavor profile that’s spicy, slightly sweet, and deeply savory. It is said that the original recipe for Ajika comes from the Abkhazia and Samegrelo regions of Western Georgia, where the paste is often used to flavor meats, fish, and vegetables.
The magic of Ajika lies in its ability to elevate the simple grilled chicken into a culinary masterpiece. The paste acts as a marinade, infusing the chicken with its robust flavors. As the chicken cooks on the grill, the heat caramelizes the sugars in the Ajika, creating a slightly sweet, smoky crust on the surface of the chicken. Meanwhile, the interior of the chicken soaks up the Ajika’s spicy and savory notes, resulting in a flavor-packed dish that’s nothing short of delightful.
The history of Georgian spices is intertwined with the country’s location along the Silk Road, the ancient trade route that connected East and West. This advantageous position exposed Georgia to a plethora of spices, many of which became integral to the country’s cuisine. Over time, Georgians have cultivated a spice tradition all their own, mixing and matching various spices to create unique blends like Khmeli Suneli and, of course, Ajika.
How to Make Ajika Grilled Chicken
To make this recipe, we will need the following ingredients:
- Chicken Breasts: The main protein of the dish. When grilled, the chicken develops a juicy, tender texture and a slightly smoky flavor.
- Cilantro: This herb brings a fresh, slightly citrusy flavor that complements the spice of the Ajika seasoning.
- Olive Oil: Adds a bit of richness and helps the Ajika seasoning adhere to the chicken. It also prevents the chicken from sticking to the grill.
- Garlic: Garlic contributes a robust, aromatic flavor that pairs well with the other savory elements in the dish.
- Lemon Juice: Adds a bright, tangy note that cuts through the richness of the chicken and olive oil, enhancing the other flavors in the dish.
- Ajika Seasoning: This is the star of the dish, providing a complex, spicy, and slightly smoky flavor. The specific ingredients used can vary, but typically include a blend of spices and herbs such as coriander, pepper, fenugreek, and garlic.
- Coriander: Provides a warm, nutty, spicy flavor.
- Aleppo Pepper: Offers a moderate heat with fruity, raisin-like notes.
- Sea Salt: Enhances the other flavors in the dish.
- Dried Marigold Petals (optional): Adds a subtle, floral flavor.
- Fenugreek: Gives a sweet, nutty flavor with a hint of bitterness.
- Smoked Spanish Paprika (Pimentón): Brings smoky, sweet, and slightly spicy flavors.
- Garlic Cloves: Adds a strong, spicy, and pungent flavor.
- Salt and Pepper: Basic seasonings that enhance the flavors of the chicken and spices.
- Cilantro for Garnish: Provides a burst of freshness and color to the finished dish, as well as adding an additional layer of cilantro flavor.
Once you’ve gathered your ingredients, we will use the following process:
- Make ajika paste & marinate. In a bowl, mix together the Ajika paste, olive oil, minced garlic, salt, and pepper. This will be your marinade. Place the chicken breasts in a dish or a sealable plastic bag. Pour the marinade over the chicken, ensuring each piece is well-coated. Seal the bag or cover the dish, then refrigerate. Let the chicken marinate for at least 2 hours, or up to overnight for more flavor.
- Grill chicken. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. If you’re using a grill pan, you can heat it over medium-high heat on the stovetop. Remove the chicken from the marinade, allowing any excess to drip off. Discard the leftover marinade. Place the chicken on the grill or grill pan. Cook for about 6-7 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C). The cooking time may vary depending on the thickness of the chicken breasts.
- Enjoy! Once cooked, let the chicken rest for a few minutes before serving. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, keeping it juicy and flavorful. Garnish with fresh herbs and serve with your choice of sides. Enjoy your Ajika Georgian Grilled Chicken!
Tips and Tricks For Perfect Ajika Grilled Chicken
Marination Time: Allow the chicken to marinate for at least 2 hours, or better yet, overnight. This gives the Ajika paste enough time to penetrate the chicken and infuse it with its rich flavors.
Prevent Dryness: To prevent your chicken from drying out, avoid overcooking it. Chicken is fully cooked when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). Using a meat thermometer can help ensure your chicken is cooked perfectly.
Grilling Temperature: Grill the chicken at medium-high heat. Too high heat can cause the outside to burn before the inside is cooked, while too low heat may result in a less flavorful result.
Resting: Let the chicken rest for a few minutes after you remove it from the grill. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, resulting in a juicier, more flavorful dish.
Quality of Ajika: The taste and spiciness of Ajika can vary depending on the brand or if you make it homemade. Start with a little and adjust according to your preference.
Serving: Ajika Grilled Chicken is delicious on its own, but you can also serve it with traditional Georgian sides like grilled vegetables, fresh salad, or khachapuri (cheese-filled bread) to make a complete meal.
Ajika is a traditional Georgian spice paste made from red and bell peppers, garlic, herbs, and a variety of spices. It has a spicy, slightly sweet, and deeply savory flavor profile.
You can find Ajika in specialty food stores, international grocery stores, or online. Alternatively, you can make it at home if you have access to the necessary ingredients.
Ajika has a unique flavor profile that’s hard to replicate. However, if you can’t find it, you might try a mixture of red pepper flakes, paprika, garlic, and a bit of cayenne pepper as a substitute. It won’t be the same, but it can provide a similar heat and flavor.
The spiciness of Ajika can vary widely depending on the recipe or brand of Aleppo Pepper. Always start with a small amount and add more to taste.
Store leftover Ajika in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. It can last for a few weeks, and the flavors may even deepen over time.
Grilled chicken can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.
While this recipe calls for chicken, Ajika also pairs well with other types of meat, like beef, pork, or fish. You can even use it to flavor grilled vegetables.
What to Serve With Ajika Grilled Chicken
This chicken is a knockout with Khachapuri Georgian Cheese Bread – one of my favorite recipes of all time – and one that will inspire you to travel to Tbilisi to enjoy a Georgian Supra – a Traditional Wine Feast!
Georgian Bread (Shoti): Shoti is a traditional Georgian bread that’s perfect for scooping up any extra Ajika sauce.
Grilled Vegetables: Grilled peppers, eggplant, or zucchini would all work well with the flavors in the chicken.
Georgian Salad: A traditional Georgian salad usually consists of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and a handful of fresh herbs, dressed simply with sunflower or olive oil. The freshness of the salad can help balance the spicy, robust flavor of the chicken.
Potato Wedges or Roasted Potatoes: The mild, starchy flavor of potatoes makes them a good counterpoint to the spicy chicken.
Rice or Pilaf: Rice is always a good option to serve with flavorful meats like Ajika Grilled Chicken. It can be cooked plain, or you can add spices and vegetables to make a pilaf.
Pkhali (Georgian Spinach and Walnut Balls): This is a traditional Georgian dish that would pair well with the chicken. It’s made with spinach, walnuts, and a variety of herbs and spices.
Ajika Grilled Chicken Recipe
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Spicy, tangy grilled chicken with Georgian Ajika seasoning.
- 2 pounds chicken breasts, sliced into long thin tenders
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro or freeze dried cilantro flakes
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons Ajika seasoning (use store-bought, or make your own):
- 1 tbsp. ground coriander
- 1 tbsp. Aleppo pepper
- 1 tbsp. plus 1½ tsp. fine sea salt
- 1 1⁄2 tsp. ground dried marigold petals (optional)
- 1 1⁄2 tsp. ground fenugreek (preferably Georgian blue fenugreek)
- 1⁄2 tsp. smoked Spanish paprika (pimentón)
- 6 medium garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 teaspoon each, salt and pepper
- finely chopped cilantro, to garnish
- In a bowl, mix together the Ajika paste, olive oil, minced garlic, salt, and pepper. This will be your marinade.
- Place the chicken breasts in a dish or a sealable plastic bag. Pour the marinade over the chicken, ensuring each piece is well-coated. Seal the bag or cover the dish, then refrigerate.
- Let the chicken marinate for at least 20 minutes, or up to overnight for more flavor.
- Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. If you're using a grill pan, you can heat it over medium-high heat on the stovetop.
- Remove the chicken from the marinade, allowing any excess to drip off. Discard the leftover marinade.
- Place the chicken on the grill or grill pan. Cook for about 6-7 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C). The cooking time may vary depending on the thickness of the chicken breasts.
- Once cooked, let the chicken rest for a few minutes before serving. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, keeping it juicy and flavorful.
- Garnish with fresh herbs and serve with your choice of sides. Enjoy your Ajika Georgian Grilled Chicken!
Amount Per Serving Calories 367Total Fat 16gSaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 12gCholesterol 131mgSodium 943mgCarbohydrates 5gFiber 1gSugar 0gProtein 49g
Nutrition is automatically calculated by Nutritionix - please verify all nutrition information independently and consult with a doctor or nutritionist for any and all medical and diet advice.